My Gay Toronto - 416 Scene

Keith Cole makes un-Canadian small parts larger than life in a year of strap-on phalluses

By Drew Rowsome

Keith Cole is an indescribable theatrical phenomenon. Artist, professor, professional scandal, Dora-nominated, drag queen, prone to nudity, tap dancer extraordinaire, possessed of the biggest heart in the business, etc, etc. Turns out his latest role in the equally eclectic but fabulous Ann Holloway's Kingstonia is likewise indescribable. But Cole attempts to explain it, only managing to convince us that it is a must-see.

My part is small, almost a cameo. It's boom, a little Donna Summer and then I'm done.

Kingstonia's such a weird . . . The script has been around for a while, Ann has changed it a few times, I can't believe that after all this time I'm in this play. It's different than other times when Ann has done it. Rather than just talking about my character, Dionysus, she says, 'Let's just bring him out and he can explain this for himself.' And there's this other character Ryley Murray's playing called The Mystery Pig. I don't know if The Mystery Pig has ever appeared before ... David Bateman was originally in this production but he left us months ago. David Batemen come back! I love it when I first saw it, it's a great piece of writing. It's an odd one for sure. 

It's one of those ones where you're talked about and talked about and then you come out on stage. And there he is. There's some anticipation to it. There's about seven pages of foreplay and then there he is. The idea before the whole idea of Dionysus was before he had all those accolades and was a god and everything, he was just a guy. And then way back when, the patriarch or the powers that be, decided to clean him up a little bit and give him these titles. But he doesn't want those titles or any of that responsibility, he just wants to party. The corporations of the time wanted to give him some clout but he doesn't want it. I like the role. It's super fast, super tiny, but it's really fun. We're milking it for all its fun. He just wants to smoke weed and party, he doesn't want to be prime minister of anything. I've been on sort of bad behaviour, last weekend. There were five days of really bad behaviour and I can sort of rationalize it, this is how I'm supposed to be, getting into trouble left, right and centre. I used my character as an excuse. I just sort of chalked it up to research. And now with the warm weather it's just going to make me nuts again. Love this.

I've been seeing a lot of plays lately, just because. You see all these actors and actresses and they know their lines and they know their entrances and exits, and they know what to wear but they're boring. They're so uninspired. I think what Ann is doing is un-Canadian. I like how Ann is being unreasonable about this whole thing. I don't know if unreasonable is the right word but I like that its so unreasonable. She says she is undirectable, many have tried but all have failed. I said that I kind of like a director, sort of an outside eye. So I asked Raymond Helkio to come in. He doesn't follow any rules, he doesn't really know any rules, I've always liked his energy. He's kind of like Ed Wood. He's like, 'Let's just do it. If it fails, it fails, let's just give it a go.' I did that little Rhubarb thing. I had a cameo in Raymond's Hamlet in a Hot Tub. Paul Bellini couldn't make it one night so I stepped in. And were just talking about strap-on phalluses. And I was in something else and it was all strap-on phalluses. There's been three plays in a row. And now in Kingstonia, I talk about strap-on phalluses. That seems to be my theme so far this year. In Hamlet in a Hot Tub they were just regular strap-on phalluses, but in Ann's play they're exaggerated strap-on phalluses. I prefer just regular, I just can't imagine what an exaggerated one would be like.

Ann was doing her PHD at U of T and it was about Women and Comedy or something. I think that she's since left it or gone on a long hiatus. Kingstonia could just be, if she ever decides to finish her PHD, this could be it. It's a story but it's also theatrical, it's a hard one to place. I've worked with Ann on a couple of films, never on stage. The first time I saw her, when she was new to the city, I was the front of house manager at the Tarragon Theatre way back then. And some actress by the name of Ann Holloway was in this Judith Thompson play Lion in the Streets and it was all much talked about. She was this new gal on the scene. Her big d├ębut. And she blew everyone away. No-one had heard of this entity but she went on to big things. We did short independent kind of films, she's sort of a character and I'm sort of a character so we get a lot of those kinds of roles. And I think we did one of those Wind at My Back or Anne of Green Gables episodes. She always plays the nosy neighbour old biddy Mrs Kravitz kind of thing and I'm the fruitcake. So it will be fun to see us together in Kingstonia.

Last year Hope Thompson did a little thing at Buddies called Fear and Desire (and the Whole Damn Thing) and that's what inspired Ann to do this. It's only seven performances but Ann wanted me to dye my hair blond, so right now I'm a platinum blond which I'm happy with. I love being a blond. I don't know if this is going to be an experiment or a train wreck or the greatest most interesting train wreck that has ever happened but the way must be tried. It's very un-Canadian but let's do it. It could be the greatest little thing or a disaster and either way that's ok.

Kingstonia runs Fri, April 17 to Sun, April 26 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St.